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Earnhardt Extends Top-10 Streak, Finishes 7th at Kansas

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 4/22/2012
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Race: STP 400 at Kansas Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile speedway / 267 laps
Weather: Cool, windy
Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 7th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished Sunday’s running of the STP 400 where he started – in seventh position – bringing the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet home without harm or headache from his afternoon drive at Kansas Speedway. The finish was Earnhardt Jr.’s fourth top-10 in a row and sixth in eight races in 2012. He has finished 15th or better in all of his races this year.

Earnhardt Jr. never fell out of the top-10 except for pit cycling and raced in the top-five for much of the race. The final 45-lap run to the checkered flag was plagued by a recurring looseness in the car, perhaps worsened by the sun’s untimely first appearance when it mattered most. The No. 88 Chevy had been running sixth but slipped two spots to eighth as it searched for grip on the hot and oily track surface; then picked one back up when Mark Martin’s engine expired with 10 laps to go.

Denny Hamlin won for the second time this season, holding off the dominant Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps. Jimmie Johnson finished third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. The race was slowed by a record-low three yellow flags.

Earnhardt Jr. dropped to fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings but lost only two points to the leader. He is now 21 points behind first-place Biffle and four points behind third-place Kenseth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Quotes
“The car was fun to drive. And we’ve had a great weekend. For whatever reason, that last run we were really loose. When you look at all the guys I’m racing around, their track bars are on the ground and we’re running ours about three inches higher, probably. We’ve just got to figure out a way to get that down and get the car to rotate and get the rear grip in the car. But I had fun. We never really cured our problems on the track, but we had a good car and it was a real consistent team, so we’ve got that going for us. And we’ve just got to get a little bit more to get to where we can try to win some races.

“You want to win for Rick (Hendrick) and for yourself and your team. Everybody here needs a win for one reason or another. We’re all working really hard. I’m not really focusing on it or honing in on it too heavily. You’ve just got to think about what your car is doing and what you need to do to help your car and make your car faster and the wins eventually take care of themselves. We’ve just got to keep working and not thing about the big prize but just think about the little things we need to work on every day.”

Kansas Race Report
Start 7th
Finish 7th
Laps Completed (Led) 267 of 267 (0)
Standings (from leader) 4th (-21)
Pitstops Laps 46, 92, 133, 178 and 221
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Brickyard 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 717 0
2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 693 -24
3 -- Brad Keselowski 666 -51
4 -- Matt Kenseth 661 -56
5 -- Jimmie Johnson 628 -89
6 +2 Kyle Busch 609 -108
7 -- Ryan Newman 606 -111
8 -2 Carl Edwards 603 -114
9 -- Joey Logano 591 -126
10 -- Clint Bowyer 577 -140
11 +1 Denny Hamlin 572 -145
12 +1 Kevin Harvick 565 -152
Full Standings